Connecting the Dots: Symantec Partner Engage Kickoff
Over 300 Symantec partners filed into the Grand Ballroom of the Del Coronado Hotel near San Diego, to the sound of “California Dreaming” piped over the sound system. (The VAR Guy would only date himself if he said he remembered when the song was first released. At least he outlived most of that band.) Nice start to the big Symantec partner event. Now let’s get down to the details.
As the attendees turned from the breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean behind them, they watched a video running through stats and kudos for Symantec — over 17,000 employees, operating in over 40 countries, recipient of countless awards and recognition for its software and executives.
Event emcee Billy Harris –an admittedly over-caffeinated “very talented short little man,” by his own description, started off with high-energy patter and card tricks, then handed the dais to Randy Cochran, Symantec’s VP of Channel Sales. Cochran’s opening message was one of “connecting the dots,” encouraging the partners in the room to learn the full breadth of Symantec’s offerings, seeing how they all link together, and (hopefully) learn about new opportunities for the partners in attendance to grow their businesses.
The underlying theme of Symantec chairman and CEO John Thompson’s keynote talk seemed to be reassurance, affirming to the attendees that the company — which is celebrating its 25th year in existence — will always be a channel-friendly company. Though he acknowledged that Symantec made working with the company a little challenging in the past few years, while it was digesting Veritas, Thompson said that the channel is “the principal route to touch many, if not most, of our customers around the world.”
One prime example: The company’s forthcoming managed services platform, dubbed Symantec Protection Network (SPN), will depend on partners to line up customers. Symantec plans to activate SPN this fall. The VAR Guy wonders: Will the announcement come at this event? Hmmm. Perhaps The VAR Guy is getting ahead of himself.
Thompson reminisced about the company’s founding year, when the Commodore 64 and the Osborne 1 were the hot PCs. From the company’s early roots in consumer software, then expanding to midsize and enterprise customers, he explained how Symantec had adapted to meet the needs of existing and new customers exactly what its channel partners need to do. Thompson also took pains to explain why the company continued to focus on the consumer business, maintaining that the lines between business and consumer were blurred, and that understanding the needs of consumers helped Symantec build better products for the enterprise.
But he clearly wanted to emphasize the company’s commitment to its partners, despite some admitted fractures during the past two years. “Frankly, we did make it hard,” he admitted. “But hopefully we’ve now made it a whole lot easier.” The one constant in the company’s strategy, he said, is “the necessity for partners to help reach [our] customers.” Thompson reserved the right to adapt that strategy, though. “The only way it changes is if there’s some tectonic shift in the industry that would change our business and yours. And that’s something that I certainly would not forecast.”
He wouldn’t talk about any specific acquisition strategy, but said he wouldn’t rule out another large acquisition like Veritas. But it’s not strategy that keeps Thompson up at night: When he’ staring at the ceiling at 2 a.m., he says, he’s wondering, “How could we have done that better?”
“It’s all around execution,” he said. “If your companies are different than that, I’d love to sit down and strategize with you so I can get to where you are.”
So how does Thompson himself connect the dots between all of the pieces of Symantec’s product lines? The VAR Guy plans to invade a roundtable session with him later today, so stay tuned.
[Title updated 9/11/07: formerly mislabelled as “Partner Exchange”]